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John Lewis Quotes & Sayings
21 entries tagged including 2 subtopics.
Last updated Sep 2021
John Lewis Topics
On Inauguration Day I will be on the platform sitting on the steps behind President Barack Obama. I don't know how I'm going to take it all in because from sitting on the steps, I will be able to look right down the Mall and see past the Washington Monument and see the Lincoln Memorial where we stood more than 45 years ago. And during those days, during that period, many of the people who voted for him could not register and vote.
I am concerned that there are some feelings in some quarters in some corners that, what do people of color want now? We elected Barack Obama as president. It's over. People talk about the post-racial America. I see his election not as the end but as a continuum. But we're not there yet. We have not yet created the beloved community that Dr. King spoke of. I see this as a down payment, a major down payment on the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Even with this election, we still have a great distance to go before we lay down the bird in the race.
Today, I think more than ever before, we have to speak up and speak out to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Dr. King used to say when people talked about blacks and whites falling in love and getting married, you know, at one time, in the state of Virginia, in my native state of Alabama, in Georgia and other parts of the South blacks and whites could not fall in love and get married. And Dr. King took a simple argument and said, races don't fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.
There have been efforts in recent years and as recently as this past election with it being a deliberate and systematic attempt to suppress the African-American vote. We had a case in some parts of Virginia where people tried to say to African-Americans, to would-be Democratic voters, you're not supposed to vote on Tuesday, November 4th. You're supposed to vote on Wednesday, November 5th. They were saying, in effect, that there's going to be such a big turnout, such a massive turnout, and you don't want to stand in these long line.
The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. made me very, very sad, and I morned and I cried like many of our citizens did. As a matter of fact, when I heard that he was, that he had been assassinated, I was with Robert Kennedy in Annapolis, campaigning with him. But somehow I said to myself, I'm not going to become bitter or hostile. I'm not going to give up or give in. I threw myself more into the campaign, and I made a commitment to myself that I would do what I can to continue the work of Dr. King, and later, after Bobbie Kennedy was assassinated two months later, to continue his effort to make our country a more just, a more fair country.
I continued the sit-ins, got on the Freedom Rides and became an active participant not just in Nashville but throughout the American South.
In 1957, when I finished high school, I was 17 years old. This was two years after the Montgomery bus walkout, two years after Rosa Parks had taken a seat, and Dr. King had emerged as a national leader.
We would said to people, you know, you've been living here for 40 years, for 50 years. Your street is not paved. You have a dirt road. You don't have clean water. If you want to change that, you must register and you must vote. You can get someone else elected. Come to a mass meeting, come next Monday. The neighbors are coming. Your uncle is coming. Your children are coming. You should be there. I tell people, we're going to have a march for the right to vote. Don't be afraid. You may get arrested, but a lot of other people will be getting arrested with you. And some people would be convinced, and some would not.
I was so inspired by Dr. King that in 1956, with some of my brothers and sisters and first cousins, I was only 16 years old, we went down to the public library trying to check out some books, and we were told by the librarian that the library was for whites only and not for colors. It was a public library. I never went back to that public library until July 5th, 1998, by this time I'm in the Congress, for a book signing of my book, 'Walking with the Wind.'
When growing up, I saw segregation. I saw racial discrimination. I saw those signs that said white men, colored men. White women, colored women. White waiting. And I didn't like it. I would ask my mother and ask my parents over and over again, why? They said, that's the way it is. Don't get in the way, don't get in trouble. I was so inspired by Rosa Parks in 1955. I was 15 years old. I was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr. I heard his words on all radio. It seemed like he was saying to me, John Lewis, you too can make a contribution.
My parents told me in the very beginning as a young child when I raised the question about segregation and racial discrimination, they told me not to get in the way, not to get in trouble, not to make any noise. But we had people that were educated. We had teachers, we had high school principals, we had people teaching in colleges and university in Tuskegee, Alabama. But they were told they failed the so-called literacy test.
In 1965, the attempted march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7th was planned to dramatize to the state of Alabama and to the nation that people of color wanted to register to vote. In Selma, you could only attempt to register to vote on the first and third Mondays of each month. You had to go down to the courthouse and get a copy of the so-called literacy test and attempt to pass the test. And people stood in line day in and day out failing to get a copy of the test or failing to pass the test.
Black men and women were not allowed to register to vote. My own mother, my own father, my grandfather and my uncles and aunts could not register to vote because each time they attempted to register to vote, they were told they could not pass the literacy test. And many people were so intimidated, so afraid that they will lose their jobs, they will be evicted from the farms, and they just - they almost gave up.
My mother and father and many of my relatives had been sharecroppers. They had been tenant farmers like so many people in the South. They knew the stories that had occurred. They knew places in Alabama where people were evicted from their farm, from the plantation. They read about, they heard about incidents in Tennessee where people were evicted from the farms and plantations back in 1956, in 1957 in West Tennessee between Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee.
When I was growing up in rural Alabama, it was impossible for me to register to vote. I didn't become a registered voter until I moved to Tennessee, to Nashville as a student.
We have come a long way in America because of Martin Luther King, Jr. He led a disciplined, nonviolent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas. Weve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go before all of our citizens embrace the idea of a truly interracial democracy, what I like to call the Beloved Community, a nation at peace with itself.
I believe in nonviolence as a way of life, as a way of living.
We live in a country where we're supposed to have freedom of the press and religious freedom, but I think to some degree, there's a sense of fear in America today, that if you say the wrong thing, what some people will consider what is wrong, if you step out of line, if you dissent, whether you be an entertainer, that somehow and some way this government or the forces to be will come down on you.
If youre going to provide civil rights and equality for everybody, you cannot draw a line, you cannot build a wall. We must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being whether they are gay or straight.
My position is very, very simple. That I fought too long and too hard against discrimination based on race and color, not to stand up and fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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